Disaster. Absolute disaster. He's come back. Jeremy Vine, that is. And so soon! It's been bliss for us since he left for Johannesburg just a couple of years ago. And now his giddying energy is being harnessed by Newsnight. Disaster. It's my wife who's really upset. Let me explain. Her regular rights of access to Stamford Bridge have been brutally cut off. JV very kindly let her have a big share of his season tickets for the past two years, and it has been blissful! I'm afraid I can't get very excited about Chelsea FC (or any other FC, for that matter) and I'm certainly not one of those hyper-trendies who've just discovered "footie". But she's been a lifelong supporter. Now she's just angry. And by some grotesque twist, yours truly is the villain of the piece. Thanks a lot, Vine.
School play day at the nursery, and another crisis about the kind of education we're lining up for the kids. The teachers are excellent. It's the other parents that make me uneasy. Armed with camcorders and digital cameras, jostling, elbowing, agitating to get the best possible shot of little Tarantina. We're in a church, by the way, but most are oblivious to the surroundings. (My three year old was the best by far, naturellement, dressed as a very leafy tree. "It's a non-speaking part," explains the head-teacher.) The fathers (except for this one) are tanned and in uniform: yachting top, chino shorts, deck shoes. They're talking excitedly about school interviews and tests for their aspiring three year olds. We are from different planets. Interviews and tests for three year olds? The numbing stupidity of it. I yearn for the simple certainty of Llangennech County Primary School. Top priority - a fantastic education. Everyone admitted, regardless of ability. I suppose you'd call it education for the many, not the few . . .
A change today. Big mistake. Fed up with the maddening drive to W12, I opt for the Tube once again. The Northern Line is a disaster area. The Circle is shut, and today the Victoria Line has "severe delays to all destinations". I've long run out of words for our "public" transport system. And I'm convinced the government is running the risk of a good electoral slapping unless it does something quickly. Quite a few of my London friends voted Labour for the first time in 1997, simply because they thought Prescott was certain to deliver some change. By which they meant injecting large amounts into public transport and tempting people out of their cars. What's more, they're willing to pay for it! So far they see little sign of practical change and countless reports that Tony Blair is nervous about upsetting the car-owner. They don't like it. A Labour insider offers the cynically complacent view: "Listen, where else are these people going to go?"
The answer is: "Not back to new Labour, mate." Oh, and by the way, that journey to White City: one hour 15 mins. For those of you lucky enough to live outside the great capital, that's at least 30 mins longer than it should have taken. Back to the car, then.
The latest batch of letters includes one from an 85 year old in the north. I shall spare you the details. She wants me to know that she is sexually active and that she's taken quite a shine to yours truly. Thank God, these are rare. Most of my mail is from normal people who say (mostly) nice things and want advice for their little Johnny who wants to work "in the media". I resist the strong temptation to say there's a large amount of luck involved (though this is undoubtedly true) and instead focus on the skills and experience that come in handy. The one that always takes them by surprise (believe me) is the importance of skilful use of language. Writing skills among those starting in the business today are often . . . underdeveloped. I'm not going to start a pedant's rant at today's English curriculum, but you get my drift. With some superb exceptions, new arrivals find it difficult to build sentences without heaps of jargon and cliche. Clear, concise English sometimes seems beyond reach. But not in my mailbag it isn't.
"I want you to read the news wearing ripped denim shorts," demands one lady in Sutton Coldfield. No room for confusion there, eh?
Our minister (chapel, not government) has retired, leaving the Presbyterian Church of Wales (Calvinistic Methodists, to be precise) with one part-time minister in London below retirement age. There used to be dozens. And dozens of chapels, too. They formed the backbone of London Welsh society. They're disappearing at speed, and it's so depressing. There are a few big causes left. Eastcastle Street (Baptists) is where Lloyd George worshipped. Mrs Lloyd George attended Clapham Junction (Methodist), which is where I enjoy my fix of Welsh religion. In its heyday, Jewin (Methodist) used to attract 600 people every Sunday night to its site at the Barbican. King's Cross (Congregationalist) is a grand temple to Welsh Nonconformity on the Pentonville Road, and its members have included some of the capital's most illustrious doctors, judges, academics and businesspeople. The Welsh (especially the London variety) thrive on tribalism and petty rivalry, so the obvious answer to the chapel crisis is impossible. There should be some ruthless rationalisation. A couple of Welsh chapels north of the Thames should serve, and a couple south of it. Painful for the handfuls of members who still insist on worshipping in familiar surroundings. But realistic. Clearly Clapham Junction Chapel couldn't possibly shut. I mean, it wouldn't make sense! See what I mean?